* Front Page & Nation

Villagers fear loss of land, as Centre moves to turn Harappan site into tourist hub

A look into the past: Local residents near a mound at the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Haryana. SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Looking at the mounds at the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi, where locals dry cow dung cakes and dump garbage, there is little to show the thousands of years of history beneath. But the Centre is moving ahead with its plan to develop the site as a tourist hub and set up a museum, and this has got residents in two villages in Haryana’s Hisar district — Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur — known as Rakhigarhi worried.

After Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government’s plan to fund five on-site museums, including the under-construction museum initiated by the Haryana government at Rakhigarhi, in her Budget speech on February 1, there is excitement and concern here. The Archaeological Survey of India has started planning the project. Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel visited the site on Sunday and spoke to villagers about their concerns.

“If Dholavira changed history, Rakhigarhi is changing history for the second time. People in Delhi will have to visit Rakhigarhi,” Mr. Patel said, adding that the government would work with the villagers to address their concerns as the tourist hub is formed.

A former sarpanch, or local head, Dinesh, told the Minister, “We are happy that there will be work in our villages, but we are scared about what will happen to us. Already, people are anxious about the rehabilitation of homes around mound number four and five.”

The ASI has been able to get under its control just 83.5 acres of the 350-hectare site that spans 11 mounds, after first taking over the site in 1996, due to encroachments and pending court cases, said ASI Chandigarh Circle Superintending Archaeologist Zulfeqar Ali. The site is under ASI protection.

“If encroachments are removed, the cow dung on the mounds will also shift,” he said, adding that about 5% of the site had been excavated so far by the ASI and Deccan College, Pune. Among the findings, which indicate both early and mature Harappan phases, were a 4,600-year-old female skeleton, fortification and bricks.

It will be introduced in all schools, irrespective of board, from Class I to Class X from the coming academic year

Subhash Desai, Minister for Marathi Language, tabled the Bill. File photo

The Legislative Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a Bill making teaching and learning Marathi compulsory in schools across Maharashtra.

The Maharashtra Compulsory Teaching and Learning of Marathi Language in Schools Bill, 2020, introduced by Minister for Marathi Language Subhash Desai, will apply to all schools irrespective of the board they are affiliated to, and calls for phase-wise introduction of Marathi language as a compulsory subject from Class I to Class X starting from the academic year 2020-21.

The subject will be introduced in Class I and Class VI from this academic year and extended to further classes.

These provisions will be compulsory for schools seeking recognition or NOC from government. Schools which already have the NOC and do not teach Marathi will lose recognition. The Bill provides for a penalty of up to ₹1 lakh on schools violating this.

Usually, a Bill is introduced in the Assembly first. However, in this case as an exception, the Council chairman allowed Mr. Desai to introduce the Bill in the Upper House. It will be tabled in the Assembly on Thursday.

During the discussion, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said, “I don’t think Marathi is sakti (compulsion), but it is the language of shakti (power) and bhakti (devotion). Who are these people who ask for evidence of how old the language is? Were they even born then? Marathi can even bring English to task. We (the Thackerays) were criticised because my children studied in English medium, but my parents never taught me to despise another language. My children speak Marathi properly. Shiv Sena was formed for the very identity of Marathi and I am fortunate this is happening under my government.”

Former transport minister Diwakar Raote said, “I welcome this Bill that was originally proposed in the 1960s. I read a letter in a Marathi daily the other day that demanded that Marathi be made third language in other States as well. Government invitations these days are largely in English. All judicial business also happens in English. The government order to have shop signages in Marathi is in English. I am glad that our government has brought this Bill.”

Leader of Opposition Pravin Darekar said, “This Bill will re-emphasise the glory of the Marathi language. I request IAS and IPS offices to talk in Marathi regularly. Even now, cars are penalised for having Marathi number plates. ”

Hemant Takle (NCP) said, “This one thing was lacking to restore Marathi’s glory, which has been done today. Some people will say this will restrict students’ growth, but it is the responsibility of the government to ensure nobody lags behind. There is a Sanskrit university and we need to try for a Marathi university.”

Many members also demanded that Marathi be given the status of a classical language.

National Green Tribunal orders analysis of samples from the waterbody, neighbouring areas

A file photo of Ulsoor lake in Bengaluru.V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the constitution of a joint committee to take water samples from Bengaluru’s Ulsoor lake and neighbouring areas to ascertain whether the lake is being polluted owing to illegal activity.

It also tasked the panel with carrying out an analysis of the water in the lake.

The Bench, comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta, made a suo motu direction based on a report in The Hindu in 2016 after schools of fish in the lake were found dead.

“The water analysis should include not only Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) limit, but also the Total Coliforms and Faecal Coliforms and also the presence of any heavy metals like Arsenic, Phosphorus, etc., which are likely to affect the human health and, if such things are found, suggest the remedial measures required to restore the water quality in that area,” the Bench ruled.

‘Illegal activities’

The Bench said The Hindu report indicated that the water quality had come down owing to illegal activities being carried out while discharging untreated sewage, effluents and the dumping of garbage into the waterbody, affecting the quality of the water and the ecology and aquatic life, much required for ecological sustenance.

“If the quality of the water in the lake is affected, it will automatically reflect in the groundwater quality, which in turn affects the health of the people who are likely to consume the poor quality of water, which is not in conformity with the norms provided for drinking purpose,” it observed.

The committee will comprise the Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru (Urban), a senior scientist from the regional office of the Central Pollution Control Board, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.

The committee has been directed to inspect the area, find out the source of pollution and take action against those responsible. The panel has also been asked to suggest remedial measures.

Police told to provide necessary assistance, security

Fire services personnel dousing the flames at a scrap market in Gokulpuri.Sandeep SaxenaSandeep Saxena

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued a series of directions to the Delhi police, the State government and other agencies for providing all necessary assistance to those affected by the violence in northeast Delhi.

The court said the highest constitutional functionaries who move with ‘Z’ category security should reach out to the affected people to give them confidence that the law was functioning.

The directions were given on a petition seeking police protection for the safe passage of the injured persons from Al Hind Hospital to other nearest hospitals.

Midnight hearing

The petition was first taken up during an urgent midnight hearing at the residence of Justice S. Muralidhar, when the court ordered the police to ensure safe passage to the victims.

Later on Wednesday, the court directed the police to provide information and safe passage to the families of the deceased and make security arrangements to ensure that burials and cremations were carried out with dignity.

When informed that the victims at Al Hind Hospital had been shifted, the court commended the police for a prompt response.

The court directed that Special Commissioner of Police Pravir Ranjan would ensure adequate number of help desks and persons assigned to handling distress calls. The police were also told to explore the possibility of taking help from the civil defence volunteers and Home Guard personnel.

The police had been directed to arrange for safe passage to fire tenders and ambulances. The Health Secretary and the Fire Services Director had also been given necessary orders. The State government had been told to provide shelter and basic amenities, including medicines, to the displaced. If necessary, rehabilitation centres had to be set up.

Pages ( 1 of 4 ): 1 234Next »