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Transwomen turn teachers for Dalit children in Bengal 

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Malda/Kolkata, Nov 19: Motherhood transcends gender. Unconditional love knows no caste barriers. Defying norms, in a rundown neighbourhood in Malda in West Bengal, transwoman Arindam Saha Kundu (now known as Priyanka) and her fellow transgender friends (Abhijit Nag and Bapon Jemadar) are busy imparting education to more than 40 children belonging to the Dalit community that is largely engaged in manual scavenging.

Known for its juicy mangoes, Malda district has a high percentage of children not attending school, as documented in the book “Dalits and Tribes of India” (a compilation of Papers presented at a three-day National Seminar on “Agenda for Emancipation and Empowerment of Dalits and Tribes”). Children from the scheduled communities are even less likely to do so. The railway colony in Malda town harbours the Dalit community.

Choosing to look beyond their own share of problems (discriminated for their gender), Priyanka and the rest, hailing from the town itself, decided to be a ray of hope to the marginalised kids, who lose much of their childhood to manual scavenging, gambling and drugs.

“Although it is 2017, people still treat the Dalit community as untouchables. The children suffer as the impoverished families are not able to afford education and often take their wards along while doing manual scavenging, cleaning tasks, etc. We wanted to do something for them,” Priyanka told IANS from Malda.

She also wanted to give in to her maternal instincts.

“By soul we are women and so there is a deep yearning to be a mother. Since we can’t do that, this is the closest possible; we can be with children and help them find their way,” said Priyanka, a commerce graduate.

So in June, “Sapno Ki Udaan” under the Gour Bangla Sanghati Samiti took wings in a room of a local club.

Ranging from the primary to middle school levels, the children, mostly dropouts, have only had snatches of education.

“Some children know the alphabet, some don’t. So the challenge was to customise the lessons. We are providing them lessons in basic science, maths, English, etc. The idea is to get them up to scratch so they can go back to schools,” Priyanka explained.

The beginning was shaky.

“The children were friendly with us. So we didn’t have much issues with them, but their parents were reluctant. It was not just that we were transgender, it was also the fact that they didn’t feel educating their children would be of much help,” Priyanka explained.

The idea was galvanised into action with the help of Bapon, a transgender from the Dalit community. He helped convince the parents to let the children come each evening to the school.

“In addition, we wanted to break stereotypes. There are taboos associated with our community and we wanted to show the other side.”

Salaries are supported through crowdfunding.

“There is no fixed salary. Whatever comes, we are fine with that. If we do any social work for some gain, then it’s not social work. We want funding to run the school,” said Priyanka.

According to Abhay Kumar Roy, a lecturer in Malda College’s department of English, who also supports the group in academic ways, the fact that the transgender community members chose to look beyond their own problems and work for the disadvantaged speaks a lot about what can be achieved if alternative gender identities are recognised.

“In ancient India, there were 20 to 25 gender identities which are not explored today. The transgenders have to accept themselves and have to rise up to the occasion and we have to support them in that for an inclusive society,” Roy, who researches on pluralistic interpretation of mythology, told IANS.

By Sahana Ghosh(IANS)

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Cyclone Nivar: Andhra CM orders state machinery to be ready

By dusk on Tuesday, no rainfall was recorded in all the 16 monitored places in Andhra Pradesh while Kurnool recorded a maximum temperature of 33 degrees Celsius.

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Cyclone Storm Nisarga

Amaravati: In the light of severe cyclonic storm Nivar poised to strike Tamil Nadu and parts of his state, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy sounded an alert on Tuesday and instructed the state machinery to be prepared.

In a review meeting with District Collectors and Superintendents of Police, he asked them to be on high alert especially when Nivar makes landfall.

“Though the cyclone is not going to touch Andhra Pradesh directly, it would have an impact in areas closer to Tamil Nadu…. inclement weather would prevail on Tuesday and Wednesday and preparedness should be in place,” he said.

Reddy said parts of Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantapur districts and coastal areas of Prakasam are likely to receive 11-20 cm rainfall, while winds with up to speeds of 65 to 75 km per hour are expected.

He also instructed officials to set up relief and rehabilitation camps wherever required in Nellore, Chittoor and Prakasam.

The Chief Minister also said crop protection measures should be taken, along with disemminating crucial information through the ‘rythu bharosa kendras’ (RBKs).

Officials have been directed to ensure that there is no loss of life in coastal areas, and fishermen do not venture into the sea.

“Utilise the services of village secretariat employees and volunteers and prepare NDRF and SDRF teams to be ready keep ready power poles for immediate restoration in case of power outage,” he said. Officials were also instructed to keep tools and equipment ready to remove uprooted trees.

Reddy also told officials to set up 24×7 control rooms at each district Collectorate, along with control rooms at mandal centres.

Noting that a booklet outlining the steps to be taken during a cyclone has been made available at all village secretariats, he asked them to make sure that information is shared with staff and the public.

Meanwhile, a Met Department official said Nivar is expected to cross the Tamil Nadu Puducherry coasts between Karaikal and Mamallapuram as a very severe cyclonic storm on late Wednesday evening.

By dusk on Tuesday, no rainfall was recorded in all the 16 monitored places in Andhra Pradesh while Kurnool recorded a maximum temperature of 33 degrees Celsius.

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Delhi Schools Unlikely To Reopen Until Covid Vaccine Is Available: Manish Sisodia

While several restrictions have been eased in different ‘unlock’ phases, educational institutions continue to remain closed.

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Manish Sisodia

Schools in the national capital which are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic are unlikely to reopen until a vaccine is available, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Tuesday.

Universities and schools across the country were closed on March 16, when the Centre announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as part of measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Until we get some vaccine, schools (in Delhi) are not likely to open,” Sisodia, who is also Delhi’s Education Minister, told reporters.

He had announced on October 30 that schools will remain closed until further orders, saying parents were not in favour of sending their ward to schools yet.

“We keep getting feedback from parents that they are really concerned about whether it is safe to reopen schools. It is not. Wherever schools have reopened, COVID-19 cases among children have risen. So we have decided that as of now schools in the national capital will not reopen. They will continue to be closed till further orders,” Sisodia had said then.

A nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25.

While several restrictions have been eased in different ‘unlock’ phases, educational institutions continue to remain closed.

According to ‘Unlock 5’ guidelines, states can take a call on reopening schools in phases. Several states also began the process of reopening schools. While some of them announced closure again due to rise in coronavirus cases.

Earlier, schools were allowed to call students from Class 9 to 12 to school on voluntary basis from September 21. However, the Delhi government decided against it.

Delhi recorded 4,454 fresh COVID-19 cases on Monday and a positivity rate of 11.94 per cent while 121 more fatalities pushed the death toll to 8,512, authorities said.

These relatively low number of fresh cases came out of the 37,307 tests conducted on Sunday, including 18,046 RT-PCR tests, according to the latest bulletin issued by the Delhi health department.

On last Friday, authorities had said that 23,507 RT-PCR tests, the highest till date, were conducted a day before.

The highest single-day spike till date here — 8,593 cases — was recorded on November 11 when 85 fatalities were recorded.

As many as 121 fatalities were recorded on Monday, same as the previous day.

This is the sixth time in the last 12 days that the daily number of deaths has crossed the 100-mark.

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Covid Cases Decreasing In Delhi Since November 10 Peak: Arvind Kejriwal To PM

Kejriwal told the prime minister that Delhi saw the peak of 8,600 coronavirus cases on November 10 during the third wave

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Arvind Kejriwal

At a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said the high severity of the third wave of Covid-19 in the national capital is due to many factors, pollution being an important one, sources said.

Kejriwal told the prime minister that Delhi saw the peak of 8,600 coronavirus cases on November 10 during the third wave and since then, the number of cases as well as the positivity rate are steadily decreasing, the sources said.

The chief minister hoped that the trend would continue in the national capital.

“The high severity of the third wave is due to many factors. Pollution is an important factor. The chief minister sought the prime minister’s intervention to get rid of the pollution caused by stubble-burning in adjoining states, especially in view of the recent bio-decomposer technique,” a source said.

At the meeting with the prime minister, Kejriwal also sought the reservation of the additional 1,000 ICU beds in the central government-run hospitals in Delhi for coronavirus patients till the third wave of the infection lasts in the city, the source said.

Modi on Tuesday interacted via video-conferencing with the chief ministers of the states that are witnessing a surge in the number of coronavirus cases to review the pandemic situation.

Delhi recorded 4,454 fresh Covid-19 cases and a positivity rate of 11.94 per cent on Monday, while 121 more fatalities pushed the death toll due to the disease to 8,512 in the city.

This was the sixth time in 12 days that the daily number of deaths crossed the 100-mark in the national capital.

Authorities reported 121 deaths due to Covid-19 on Sunday, 111 on Saturday, 118 on Friday, 131 on November 18, the highest till date, and 104 on November 12.

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